Thursday, April 25, 2013

Kids Should Come Wrapped in Caution Tape

“We spend the first 12 months of our children's lives teaching them to walk and talk and the next 12 months teaching them to sit down and shut up.”
― Phyllis Diller

Kids can wreak some havoc in your life.  Parents who have young children can only foggily remember carefree, lazy Sunday mornings in bed with the paper and coffee.  They can no longer fathom what it would be like to present in their own home without listening for a) crying b) whining or c) whispered sounds of mutiny.  You can see these parents out in the world sometimes; looking shell-shocked but eerily gleeful to have escaped their tiny captors for a few moments to browse the aisles of Target looking at weird things like soap.

When my boys were smaller, I invented opportunities to go to Target just to have a few moments of sanity for myself.  "Uhhhhh, we need toilet paper," I would say, shoving the extra rolls back behind the Scrabble and Monopoly games in the game closet.  And before their dad could turn his own dazed eyes toward me, I was out the door shouting maniacally, "Be back in JUST a few minutes!"

I would wander around under the bright, cheerful signage beckoning me to purchase the latest seasonal must-have items and wax nostalgic about the days when a trip to a discount supercenter didn't feel like a desperately needed vacation.  I would stagger down each aisle, my step growing lighter and my smile growing broader with every minute, and feel the weight of my parenting responsibilities slip away.

Thank goodness my children are growing up.

Last night, I spent a few hours back in that world of toddlers and enjoyed it tremendously.  I now understand the joy of what it will be like to be a grandparent:  you can have a lot of fun with the kid for a a FINITE AMOUNT OF TIME.

My young charge and I spread paper towels on the floor and proceeded to make cupcakes.  Ordinarily, it takes me approximately 5-6 minutes to whip up the batter, line the muffin pans and whisk the pans into the oven for baking.  Last night, it took about an hour.  I handed him each cupcake liner to fill the pan with, counting each one and noting the bumblebee on the bottom every single time. I gave him the bowl and the spoon for stirring and we added the ingredients.  He stirred with his pudgy little two-year-old hands wrapped tightly around the long spoon handle. I showed him how to use the spoon to distribute the batter into each of the cupcake holders.  About half of the cupcakes were unusable by the end, so I tossed those but baked the rest while we sat down to dinner.

My toddler-aged monkeys "backstage" at Sesame Street Live
I was able to do all of the above patiently and kindly because I knew we only had a few hours together.  When my own kids were little, we would do the above in a limited fashion.  Because I still had to do the laundry, scrub the toilets, vacuum, clean up after dinner AND think about getting a few hours of shut-eye in before going to work the next day, I would hurry the process along.  I would let them STIR but I scooped the batter into the cupcake holders.  I let them put frosting on a FEW cupcakes but not all. It was all part of that foggy "I MUST make it THROUGH this" feeling that I had much of the time.  The first five years of my children's lives were spent with me just trying to keep the tears (my own AND theirs) at bay.

Parenting is REALLY, REALLY HARD and I don't understand why so many of us attempt it.

I felt a little irritated with myself last night that I didn't stop to appreciate those moments a little more with Thing 1 and Thing 2.  I did (and do) a fairly good job of being "in the moment," but I have SO much room for improvement. I let life get in the way far too often even as hard as I try to let the unimportant things slide (if you saw my house right now, you'd understand exactly which things I label "unimportant").  I try SO HARD to be a good parent and fail miserably so much of the time. 

Things 1 and 2 will be glad to know that I'm reinvigorated and rededicated after my babysitting experience last night.  We are going to have SO MUCH quality time!  And I'm certain they'll be SO EXCITED about that at the ages of almost-13 and 10...  

On second thought, maybe I'll just read that new book I downloaded and wait to become a grandparent when I can really ENJOY the experience.

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